Be river safe this Easter

23 March 2016

The Easter long weekend is traditionally a popular time for boating and other river activities, and the Royal Life Saving Society is urging all West Australians to remember the importance of river safety in a bid to prevent further drownings during the coming holiday period.

In the past 13 years, Royal Life Saving research shows that a total of 1,001 people have lost their lives in Australian rivers, creeks and streams. Of these, 81% were male with 35% of all drowning deaths known to involve alcohol. Boating fatalities claimed the lives of 145 people, with 26% of all victims recording a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reading of 0.05mg/L or higher.

Here in Western Australia, 79 people have drowned in rivers over the past 13 years, with 39% of cases known to have involved alcohol. Boating and watercraft incidents claimed the lives of 12 people in WA rivers.

Royal Life Saving Society WA Senior Manager of Health Promotion and Research, Lauren Nimmo, says “Easter is a great time to head to our rivers to swim, boat, fish or camp, but remember that while our rivers are beautiful, more Australians drown there than anywhere else."

A recent survey of river users conducted by Royal Life Saving found strong community support for increased breathalysing of skippers on rivers, creeks and streams, and strong support for the wearing of lifejackets when boating. Not wearing lifejackets can have serious consequences with studies finding that wearing a lifejacket doubles a person’s chance of survival once immersed in water.

With rivers, creeks and streams the leading location for drowning in Australia, Royal Life Saving is also reminding the community of the importance of ensuring they ‘Respect the River’, a public awareness and education program supported by the Federal Government.

Miss Nimmo says “Our rivers continue to claim too many lives in preventable tragedies, including lives of young children in regional Australia. It’s important people Respect the River and follow four simple safety tips: Wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol around water, never swim alone and learn how to save a life.”

More details on the Respect the River campaign can be found at the link below.